I have received more email over two gun bills than
any other legislation this Session. Both bills were voted on in the Senate
yesterday. House Bill 4045 was actually a confidentiality of records bill and
it passed overwhelmingly. Senate Bill 1594 would have banned certain people
from having guns on school property and it failed. I voted for the first one
and against the second one. This is another case in which what you might be
hearing is not totally accurate and I would like to attempt an explanation.
Both bills deal with people who have concealed handgun
licenses (CHL), and maybe we should be clear about who we are talking about. To
get a CHL a person has to go through a background check and take a class to
demonstrate a level of knowledge with a gun. If a person has a criminal record
they will not get a license and if someone with a license commits a criminal act
they will lose their license. Ultimately it is up to law enforcement to grant
the license and I would suggest if they have any doubts the license will not be
granted. In essence we are dealing with law abiding citizens.
House Bill 4045 is simply a bill dealing with public
records. Some public records should be available to anyone. For example if
someone wanted to know how I voted on a bill they should be able to discover the
information easily and they can through the state website. However a lot of
other records and information should not be as easy to get. In the case of CHL
licenses the application includes a lot of personal information such as
addresses and social security numbers. House Bill 4045 prohibits the release of
such personal information unless a compelling reason can be demonstrated for
having the information. This is a legal standard which will protect people from
identity theft as well as other unwarranted uses of the information, but will
still allow the legal system the access they require.
Senate Bill 1594 would have prohibited people with a
CHL permit from having their gun on them when they were on any school property.
This was presented as something we needed to do to keep kids safe. It ignores
the facts. In the history of gun violence at schools there has never be even
one incident where the act was committed by a person with a CHL permit; not one.
There have, however, been several cases where the violence was prevented from
being worse than it was by someone with a gun. Some say “we need to do
something!” and in theory they could say they have by passing such a bill. But
in reality all this bill would have done was put further restriction on lawful
citizens without doing anything to address the problem. Another example of
legislation designed to make some people look good without actually
accomplishing anything. We have too much of that up here already.
But outside of the lack of merit in the bill, I have a
major objection to the way the Legislative process was violated in this
instance. While House Bill 4045 was fully vetted in the House Judiciary
Committee and thoughtfully amended in the Senate the same cannot be said for
Senate Bill 1594. Keep in mind the target date for the end of this Session was
Feb. 29. This bill showed up for the first time and was first read on the
morning of the 28th. It was then put on the calendar of the Senate Rules
Committee for that afternoon and passed without a public hearing. In fact the
Committee Chair said in essence they wouldn’t have time to hear all of the
public testimony so they wouldn’t take any. They then asked the Senate
Republicans to allow rule suspension so the bill could come to the floor for a
vote on the 29th. This was such an overt violation of process we said no. We
could not prevent the bill from coming up on March 1st, but were able to defeat
it on the Senate floor.
We still have a few issues yet to deal with and I am
not sure at this point whether the Session will end today or go into next week.
My hope is this sort of political posturing will die down so we can finish our
work, but that may be overly optimistic.
Senator Jeff Kruse